Corporate America Gets Richer on the Backs of U.S. Workers

In August, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced that corporate profit margins during the previous three months established a new record. In all, corporate profits for 2022’s second quarter hit $2 trillion. BEA released its data after oil companies, food giants, agriculture and other major industries also reported new all-time highs.

One analysis emphasized how eight oil companies earned nearly $52 billion from April through June. Over the past three months, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Hess Corp, Phillips 66, Shell and TechnipFMC enjoyed an average 235 percent profit increase compared to the same period last year.

Unsurprisingly, the wildly successful corporations’ Boards of Directors have rewarded their key executive personnel with generous compensation packages that far exceed the incomes of typical workers. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a pro-immigration think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers, found that in 2020 the ratio of CEO-to-typical-worker compensation was 351-to-1, up from 307-to-1 in 2019, 61-1 in 1989 and 21-1 in 1965. Average top CEO compensation in 2020 was $13.9 million. At the end of fiscal 2021, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index, more than 30 executives at public companies had pay deals that exceeded $100 million in value; the top dozen packages surpassed $200 million, and some reached into the billions.

With corporations and their CEOs earning huge sums, and the worker bees barely eking out a sustenance wage, Capitol Hill cynics wonder why Congress is so fixated on importing more overseas – read, cheaper – labor. The more foreign-born that enter the labor pool, often on nonimmigrant temporary visas, the more precarious the employment status becomes for those that EPI identified as “average workers” – the most easily displaced in an inequitable hiring system that favors low-cost labor above everything.

Each year, the U.S. issues about 1.5 million Nonimmigrant Visas (NIVs), and more than 1 million Immigrant Visas (IVs) are also handed out. Most temporary tourist and business visitors enter using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and originate from countries that have low visa fraud rates. When delays occur, the cause is normally attributable to a backlog or an excess of caution since foreign nationals’ admission carries with it at least a moderate risk level.

An arriving annual nonimmigrant and immigrant 2.5 million visa million population, many of whom will either receive legal work authorization or will be illegally hired by unscrupulous employers, is an inadequate inflow, an opinion expressed in The Wall Street Journal’s commentary, “The Other Immigration Crisis: Endless Visa Waits.” More serious a problem than American worker displacement, in the Journal’s view, is the inability to process more visas. The hand-wringing Journal irrationally frets that the domestic labor market isn’t expanding fast enough and that too many Indian and Chinese nationals are stuck in the immigration pipeline. Unless the feds act quickly to process more visas, predicted the Journal, the Indian and Chinese may seek employment in Canada – one of the oldest scare lines in the we-must-have-more-immigration-immediately deceits. Translation: Silicon Valley’s bottom line, and not American families’ well-being, is the Journal’s paramount goal. EPI, however, determined that employers use the H-1B visa to pay foreign-born workers “well below market wages,” a fact the Journal omitted.

A 2021 New York Times story said that Silicon Valley is “awash in money” and “has never seen so much loot.” Forbes estimates that 365 billionaires have made their booty from tech. One thing is certain. Regardless of Silicon Valley’s enormous profits, the shameless pursuit of lower cost international labor won’t end anytime soon.

Changing the lopsided status quo will require that Congress enact legislation which would require Silicon Valley, and other nontech-specific firms, to commit to hiring U.S. employees instead of displacing Americans with H-1B visa holders and Optional Practical Training workers. OPT has evolved into the nation’s largest and fastest growing guest worker program.

Immigration’s original principle, and specifically as it relates to the H-1B visa, was to supplement American workers’ economic contributions, not to further enrich a narrow, elitist sector. Assuming a new Congress takes office in 2023, it will need to move quickly to make up ground for decades of corporate malfeasance that compounds annually with more visa admissions.